A degree. Software proficiency. Expertise in digital technologies. These tend to be the skills that managers focus on when hiring for a creative team. And while these skills check some important boxes, they aren't always enough on their own. To be a well-rounded and productive member of a team, you need to be able to supplement your skill set with critical non-technical skills (these are often called “soft skills”).
Here are the seven skills you need to make sure you’re always the best creative candidate.
Soft Skill #1: Communication
It's said so often that it sounds cliché, but good communication skills actually are one of the most important traits a creative needs for any position. Poor communication leads to missed information and misunderstanding. Not only can this result in disagreements and frustration, it also wastes everyone's time as people chase each other for details and clarification, and redo work after expectations are finally sorted out.
It's just as important to remember that exceptional communication leads to excellent work. Better ideas, more efficient approaches, effective use of time—all of these things happen when team members communicate well with one another.
It makes sense for employers to expect that the best candidates have good communication skills. After all, a creative person's job is to communicate—you communicate messages and ideas with your words, design, art, and copy. So, extending that ability to communicate effectively in a team environment just makes sense.
Soft Skill #2: Time Management
Deadlines: no one who loves doing creative work loves them, but you just can't keep the wheels rolling without them. Deadlines keep projects from dragging on into eternity and offer that little bit of pressure that often spawns some of the best creative work. Consistently meeting deadlines shows your employer that you care about their time and can be trusted to meet their needs.
To meet your deadlines as a team, each person needs to have solid personal time management skills. Your project manager doesn't want to be constantly chasing you down to get you to complete your portion of the project so the rest of the team can get to theirs. Time management is a difficult skill to learn because it often involves breaking a lifetime of bad habits, so employers tend to hire staff who have proven that they are already capable of working with deadlines.
During interviews, employers will ask directly what tools you use to manage your time, or for an example of a time when you missed a deadline. Hearing how you handle your current work will help them see how you’ll handle theirs.
Soft Skill #3: Cooperation
Whether you work in an office or remotely, you’re working as part of a team. Nobody works entirely in a silo. Each member of the team needs to be able to collaborate, compromise, and handle feedback—both giving and receiving—in a mature and respectful way. The result? A happier team, a healthier environment, and some fantastic collaborative work.
Equally important, any creative who is interacting with clients at any level should be able to cooperate with external team members, respecting ways of doing things that are not their own to become a true partner. When interviewing, employers may ask about the most difficult person you’ve worked with and listen for your takeaways to drill down for this skill. Your view of cooperation in tough situations will help them see if you’ll fit in their team.
Soft Skill #4: Adaptability
Part of what makes any creative person excellent at what they do is their confidence in putting forward their own unique ideas. However, as valuable a skill as that is, there comes a time when you will have to adapt to someone else's vision. This is difficult for some people to accept, but conforming to the expectations is the only way to maintain a vital business.
It's important to demonstrate your flexibility before coming on board. Employers will ask questions through the interview process about times you’ve had to deliver work in a way you didn’t personally agree with or had to work in an environment that required frequent change. An employee who displays adaptability can be a great asset—your flexibility will make for a better relationship and will help the business through trying times.
Soft Skill #5: Problem Solving
In any job, problems of all kinds are sure to arise. It's inevitable. Though employers can't predict the nature of the problems they'll encounter in the future, they will prepare by hiring employees who are comfortable solving problems. An employee who can't solve problems on their own will be a burden on their time, their resources, and their patience.
Remember: the best opportunities and discoveries often arise from problems and your ability to creatively solve them. So, when interviewing for a position, look for opportunities to talk about not just the work, but the problem you solved in each example. A team of people who see the potential in any problem is a powerful team.
Soft Skill #6: Organization
While many creatives are quite organized, a certain amount of chaos can come with the territory. However, there is a difference between a messy desk and an inability to answer an email on time. Though a certain amount of controlled pandemonium is okay, the business will suffer if disorganization creeps into your project communications and timelines. Especially since just one disorganized employee can set off a chain reaction of missed details and inefficiencies and negatively influence others on your team.
Employers don't expect perfection from their staff, but a certain amount of organization is paramount to getting your ideas off the ground and keeping the clients happy. Hiring managers will ask questions about how you stay on top of projects and how you organize your time. Demonstrating your organizational skills will make you the standout candidate.
Soft Skill #7: Storytelling
Whether getting buy-in from an internal team, helping land a new client, or simply presenting a new idea, the best creative talent know how to tell a good story. In fact, for digital projects that require design, content, UX, and development, the ability to tell a story is mission critical to creating truly compelling work that meets user needs.
From defining a customer journey to developing user workflows that drive desired behavior, storytelling can be found in every creative role. Employers want to know if you can tell a good story. They will listen carefully to how you present your work and ask questions about the user stories you worked with to create great digital experiences.
To reiterate, technical skills are no doubt important—they can help you prove your ability to handle the work that's waiting for you and deliver final projects that work. However, all the technical skills in the world can't make a project run smoothly, efficiently, and harmoniously. Before they bring you on board, employers will want to make sure you have the soft skills needed to complement your technical abilities.